So… this is new.

Several years ago, when our oldest was just getting ready to start kindergarten, I COULD. NOT. WAIT.

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At the time, we had 3 young children that always needed me. Always. Every second of the day (or at least that’s how it felt). My firstborn and I had some serious power struggles that made us both look forward to getting some breathing time while he was at school. We needed a break from each other for part of the day and school was going to provide that break. The teachers who cared for all the children in the classroom? GOD BLESS THEM!

I think many moms can relate. Maybe not to the specific issues, but as the first day of school approaches in our area (we start in September), there are videos and memes made expressing the joy that will be “THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!” All the kids will be out of the house for 7 hours a day and mom can finally breathe! Or go to Target by herself! Or any number of “Oh-my-gosh-they’re-gone! PARTY TIME!!!” moments.

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I get it. I have six kids. I. SO. GET. IT.

Way back in 2007 when we were preparing to launch our Bubba off to school, I was pouring my heart out to a friend hoping for empathy. Having a husband who has multiple jobs, is often gone for extended periods at a time, left me to deal with some pretty incredible and intense times with our boy. I was often left in tears, as was he. Parenting. (Sigh).

My friend, in whom I was confiding in and hoping for emotional support from said,

“You don’t think that’s going to get better by sending him to school, do you?”

My mouth dropped. I mumbled something about needing to go, turned on my heel and fumbled my way back to the car.

If you’re a parent, you pour your heart into doing what’s best for your kids. It’s not unusual, especially with your first one (or six) to wonder if you’re doing the right thing or if you’re going to screw them up somehow. When someone else questions how you’re raising your kids, even if it’s meant well (as it often is)? It can hurt. It can be brutal, especially when you’re already dealing with difficult things and doubting your own abilities.

So it came as a total surprise to this mama’s heart when, 9 years later, after 4 of my 6 kids had been in public school, I started feeling a nudge to pull some of my kids from public school and bring them home for their education instead. I was like, “NO. WAY. Not happening.”

My thoughts went back to the aforementioned interaction. The wounds were still there. Forgiven, but still sore.

I had unintentionally become a bit jaded regarding homeschooling. While I’ve had (and have) several friends who school their kids at home and are AWESOME, both in ability and overall coolness, I had seen others who made non-homeschooling families feel “less than” and were quite vocal about it. By choosing to bring my kids home, I didn’t want to be a part of an unofficial “club” that made others feel like I was made to feel; like a bad mom who was too self-focused to take on educating her children herself.

Or that made others feel inferior because “they can’t handle teaching their own kids”.

Both of which are utter nonsense.

Those perceptions were based on personal experiences and reactions and NOT to be confused with the actual act of educating one’s kids at home. Once I got over that, I still tried to push the notion away, but I kept meeting people who educated at home and LOVED IT. And they were so gracious about it.

Try as I might to deny it, the pros were outweighing the cons by a long shot.

Darn it. I couldn’t get away from this annoying tugging at my heart.

But, having always been a public school proponent, I felt like I needed to hear the voice of the Almighty shouting straight down from heaven, “SUMMER! You are going to begin homeschooling your children!” I mean, my husband and I grew up in public school and turned out alright, right? (If you know us personally, please just go along with this 😉 ).

We live across the street from our local elementary school. Talk about convenience! When the morning bell rings? Just push the kids out the door and into the classroom! Super easy. And there’s this old perception of who homeschooling families are… They’re often thought of as this:

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Or that mom and daughters will start dressing like:

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(Okay, I might wear a denim jumper, but it’ll be this one:

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Cute, right?! I digress.)

But, much to my initial chagrin, we did receive some pretty obvious confirmation from God that, denim jumpers aside, we were to begin educating some of our kids at home. There was no denying it, so rather than keep resisting, it was time to just do it and dive right in!

I am not really sure what homeschooling will look like for our family. I’m totally new at it. I’m a bit afraid of what I don’t know and bit afraid of what I DO know.

Ultimately, however, I know we prayed about it and because God HAS confirmed to us that this is the right thing for us right now, He will equip me to do this job well and find joy in it.

So here we are. I’m still a public school mama and now also a homeschooling mama… all wrapped up in one person. You get to read all about our journey, among many other things and thoughts I have, right here, just like always. (Thank you, by the way, for joining me!)

Would you please pray for us as we start this new adventure?  And, if you’re getting ready to start something new and would like prayer, let me know! We’ll pray for you too!

<3,

Summer

PS

I wanted to share with you that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my friend in the story above meant no ill-will toward us. She was unknowingly pressing into a painful area in our family with wonderful intentions, but I wasn’t ready to receive those intentions at the time. Please know, too, that I have no intention of telling you that you need to homeschool or send your kids to public school. My job is as mother to my kids, yours is to be mother (or father) to yours. If you’re wondering what to do? Pray about it. Pray in earnest. God will direct you as He directed us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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PRAY.

Pray Without Ceasing

I don’t even know where to begin with this post.  My thoughts have been swirling and trying to process what’s been going on in my heart, a desperate plea, for a long while. I hope I articulate it well.

We HAVE to change.

As friends. As a society. Most certainly as a church.

Over the past few months I’ve learned of several friends who have been attacked by various illness or disease. I’ve learned of marriages falling apart. I’ve learned of addictions to medications and pornography. I’ve learned of horrible abuse and deep depression.

I’ve heard of all of these things before and I’ve done what we’ve all done in response… “Oh no. That’s just horrible. I’ll pray for them.”  I shoot up a quick prayer to God and go on with my day.

Or I just shake my head in concern, move on and do nothing.

As we navigated the horrible pregnancy with Phoebe, we were blessed to be prayed for by thousands of people. Literally thousands. Some once or twice, others daily for months. We were (and are still) overwhelmed by the outpouring of love for our family by  every person who involved themselves in our story.

They prayed for peace. For healing. For safety. For God’s will to be done.

PEOPLE PRAYED. I prayed too.

In the Bible we’re told this about prayer:

 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. –James 5:13-16

Prayer is powerful and effective.

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people.” –1 Timothy 2:1

We are to pray for each other.

 “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”–Hebrews 4:16

We are to pray BOLDLY with confidence.

When Phoebe was sick in my womb, my husband and my children prayed boldly, reminding God of His plans for her, asking for complete healing of the little girl who was given .3% chance to live. They prayed every day.

We approached the elders of our church and asked them to pray over us, interceding on Phoebe’s behalf. And they did.

We asked YOU to call out to God and lay this burden at His feet. And you did.

You approached the throne of grace with confidence that God would hear your heart’s cries and answer accordingly. And He did.

We have seen what happens when people gather in the powerful name of Jesus Christ to pray. We live daily with the knowledge that the Body of Christ stepped in on our behalf and we bear the marks of love because of it.

Here’s where I’m frustrated.

A pastor friend recently posed this question to his congregation:

“How many of you either HAVE or have had to deal with cancer?”

ONE-THIRD of the people raised their hands.

One-third.

Did those people have thousands going before God on their behalf? I don’t know. What I do know is that most don’t even have a few.

Why not?

What has happened that we’ve decided (mostly by our lack of participating in it) that prayer is our second line of defense against the crud of this world? Or maybe that it’s not a valuable tool in our arsenal at all?!

We are told clearly in Scripture that it is not only a tool, but the MOST valuable one, binding all the others together…

 “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit,which is the word of God. 

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. “

–Ephesians 6:13-18

We are to take all of the tools; the belt of Truth, the breastplate of Righteousness, the Gospel of Peace, the shield of Faith and the helmet of Salvation and PRAY in the Spirit.

This is the same Spirit who the Apostle Paul tells us “also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26)

When we pray, we’ve got the Holy Spirit speaking directly to God for us.

We’re also told we should pray TOGETHER, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”– Jesus (Matthew 18:20)

You guys, why aren’t we praying for and WITH each other more often?

We’ve been tricked into thinking that our troubles will be a bother to others, that we’ll impose on their lives if we tell them what’s really going on in ours. That we’re not worth their time or energy.

That is a LIE.

It is of the enemy.

Do you know what happens when we share our burdens with each other and bring them before God together? GOD GETS the GLORY.

That makes Satan mad as heck. Nothing ticks him off more than his archenemy getting the positive, beautiful recognition He deserves. In fact, the devil will do anything to stop it… lie to us (“They’re too busy for you.“), entice us with busyness, making us too and tired overwhelmed to call out to God. He’ll make you feel ASHAMED of your problem (“If they knew how this happened they’d never think of you the same again.”)… the list goes on.

LIES.

God designed community and prayer. He WANTS us to go to Him in good and bad times. He wants us to share our burdens with each other and to come to Him together.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”–Galatians 6:2

And let us NOT. GIVE. UP.

In Luke 18 there is a parable (short story) Jesus told about a widow who kept nagging the local judge to give her justice against her adversary. For a long time he refused but she kept coming and coming. Finally he said to himself, “because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!” 

Jesus says this next:Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. –Luke 18:7-8

“Jesus told His disciples this parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up”. (Luke 18:1)

PRAY.

PRAY FOR EACH OTHER.

PRAY WITHOUT CEASING.

DON’T. GIVE. UP.

So I ask you: What do you need prayer for? No fear of being a burden. No shame. No judgment. Just prayer. Invite your community to pray for you. If you don’t have a praying community, shoot me a message and I will be more than glad (and honored) to lift you up before the throne of grace. The devil wants you to hide. Fight back. You CAN be set free from whatever you’re up against. Because friend?

GOD.

Let’s invite God back into our stories and give Him the glory for what He is about to do in our lives. It might not look like anything we’d ever expect or maybe even hope for, but you guys? This is a battle. And our God? HE WINS. Let’s do this.

The Mile Markers of Life

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I am still blown away by this little miracle girl. And her hair. My gosh, THAT HAIR!!!

One month.

It has been a whole month since we’ve had our miracle baby.

This little muffin who has impacted our lives and the lives of countless others for months before she was born, is now here in the flesh and doing all the wonderful things babies should do: eat, sleep and poop.  Perfect. ❤

I never thought I’d be so glad to get woken up six times at night to be an on-call chef or a professional tush-wiper.  But every night as Phoebe’s cries wake me from the ever-coveted slumber, I, albeit groggily, do my jobs with a grateful heart.

There is nothing like the sweet sound of a newborn’s cry when you’ve been told you wouldn’t hear one.  Phoebe’s cry is so beautiful to me.  That may change as she gets older and louder and more demanding, but for now it’s ironically comforting.

Many, many times I find myself tracing the outline of her face, burying my nose into that nook between her neck and hair and just smelling her special baby smell.  Sometimes my eyes fill with tears of gratitude for her, then I see my other 5 kids and the tears flow more quickly at the sheer knowledge that I, we, have been entrusted with the job of caring for and raising six beautiful kids, none of which we deserve.  I mean, I got fired from babysitting at 14 for talking on the phone instead of playing with the kids… yet here I am now, with a volleyball team of a brood under my care.  It’s humbling and terrifying and amazing all at once.

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Biggest, Number 2, Banana, Princess, T-man and Miss P. These are my heart!

Many times in life I’ve been given jobs WAY out of my scope of talent or skill.  Raising kids has definitely been one of them.

Has that happened to you?  Have you ever been given a task that you were certain you couldn’t do but someone else thought you could?

What were the things that helped you succeed in accomplishing that task?  For me it’s been many things, but most of all 1) asking for help, 2) getting equipped and 3) checking in with the boss… a LOT.

The apostle Paul describes life as a race, and a long one at that.  There are times that we run, times when we walk and others when we can barely crawl toward the finish line.  But when we keep our eyes focused on the joy at the end… mmmm-mmmmm!  That’s where our God is.  He’s the one who knows what’s on the other side of the hurdle and the best way to get us over it. We NEED to invite Him in and on our journey because He’s what keeps us going!

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the JOY set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not lose heart.”                            –Hebrews 12:1-3

We know that none of us will escape life without hardship. Not a single person in all of history has had it “easy” all of the time.  So if you knew you’d be facing something really hard, wouldn’t you want to surround yourself with people who could help you through it and lighten the load a bit?  If you knew you were going to to face something major… job loss, illness of yourself or a loved one, financial ruin or something else… wouldn’t you want to equip yourself with all the tools necessary  to help your mind, body and spirit press on and not be “squished” by the overwhelming nature of the burden?  If you KNEW you had direct access to the ONE person who could help you succeed, wouldn’t you want to build on that relationship?

Jesus did that!  In looking at His life, He surrounded Himself with a core group of beloved friends in the form of the disciples.  Those friends stood by Him thick and thin and offered great encouragement for the three years they spent together.  A few of them were a bit zealous (ahem, Peter and the ear thing… John 18:10) and also screwed up (again, Peter… the rooster, see Matthew 26), but they encouraged and loved Jesus.

Jesus was FULLY EQUIPPED for the journey set before Him.  He knew Scripture in and out, up and down, backward and forward.  He armed Himself well.  When He was tested in the desert by Satan himself (Matthew 4:1-11), Jesus was able to resist all the temptations and combat false accusations because Jesus KNEW the character of God (it helped that He IS God, but He was also fully man and felt the depths that temptation can take us to).  He had studied Scriptures.  We are called to do the same thing: “Put on the FULL ARMOR OF GOD so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (see Ephesians 6:10-18).

Jesus was also in constant communication with His Father in heaven.  All throughout the New Testament we see Jesus wandering off to pray.  That was and still is the way we get personal access to the Creator of the Universe.  Each of us has a direct line to Him… all we have to do is pray… to talk with God.  Not just when we need stuff, but when we’re excited, scared, rejoicing, thankful… anything.  Prayer doesn’t have to be stuffy and filled with “thee’s and thou’s” either.  God just wants us to call out to Him and share our hearts with Him; to invite Him in to our lives.

Because here’s the thing: Life. Life is inevitably going to have times when stuff happens that can make it seem unbearably difficult and long and drawn out and just exhausting.  We NEED the hope that only Jesus can provide; that hope that says “there is more than just this”.  Because there is!

During the first half of the pregnancy with Phoebe I just wanted it to end. Not her to end, but the unknowns of what was coming and the anticipation of heartache and all the other stuff that weighed SO HEAVILY on my heart even when I wasn’t thinking about it. Those? I craved for those to be over.  Every moment when the child you’re carrying in your womb has been given a death sentence is just awful because you don’t know when the “inevitable” will come to fruition and an immeasurable pain will begin.

So during that time I knew that I had to build up my reserves. I had to press deeply into my friendships and rely on them for emotional strength. I had to press deeply into the Word of God because I needed to know down to the core of my bones that He is in fact good in spite of what the prognosis was. I had to plead with God for strength and help and to just cry with Him when the feelings of my heart couldn’t be formed into words.

I can say with confidence that I could not have made it through the first half of the pregnancy had I not done those things.  And God?  He made Himself known to me in ways I never ever hoped or even imagined possible.  Again.

You see, our Phoebe, is just one of the many mile markers of God’s joining us in the race of our lives. She is a tangible, kissable and snugable reminder to us of why it’s so important to keep running the race….

Because God hears.  And if He hears, He is real.  And if He is real, what He says in His word is what He wants of and for us… He wants our love for Him because He loves us and is cheering us on as only a perfect Father can, through each of the twists and turns, peaks and valleys of our life’s race.

Perhaps you’re in a place where the race is just too much.  You want to quit.  You want to lie down on the side of the road and just stop running.  I plead with you, reach out to someone else who is running.  Surround yourself with those who can help you up and walk with you until you can run.  Fuel yourself with God’s Word.  There is no substitute. Call out to Him.  He is already cheering you on!

Oh Ye of Little Faith… When God says “Yes”

I don’t even know where to begin.

This past Friday morning the contractions began and the day we have been anticipating  with much fear and trepidation and hope and excitement was finally upon us.  Phoebe was going to be born.

BORN. As in ALIVE!

31 weeks ago we were given pretty bad news: “Your daughter has a cystic hygroma. Those are often associated with something called “Turner Syndrome”.  99% of girls with Turner Syndrome do not make it to term. I am so sorry.”

We were numb. Ninety-nine percent don’t make it. Some of that is because of the chromosomal abnormality and some of that is because, when given those statistics, many families choose to end the pregnancy, but it doesn’t appear that the statistics differentiate between the two.

My body threatened to lose her many, many times over the course of the next 3 months.  And for the months following we were given good news (“The omphalocele has resolved! Her hygroma is gone!”) and bad news (“She has congenital heart disease… open heart surgery after birth… a month or more in the hospital…”).

And through all of it we prayed.

We prayed and prayed and prayed, as did many of you.

We prayed for healing.  We prayed that God would be merciful and spare Phoebe pain.  We prayed that she would not need surgery.  And we kept praying.

Up until 2 days before the birth at the final ultrasound the main concern was her heart.  I think we had grown comfortable, if one can say that, with the idea that within hours after her birth, Phoebe would be transported to Children’s Hospital and we would begin the long, long journey of life in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit.  I had come to accept that the last week of summer I would spend in the hospital with our newborn, by her side as she lay in a special little crib with wires attached to her body, tubes coming from her nose and stitches going down the front of her chest instead of helping my other children get ready for the first day of school.

I knew I had prayed and prayed and prayed and had entrusted God with Phoebe’s life and the outcome of the pregnancy and birth and what happened afterward, but to be honest?…

I didn’t think He’d let her get better.

I have seen so much heartache among dear friends and so much hardship in the world that I had come to believe that as a Christian I am supposed to present God with my cares and troubles and heart concerns, but that the outcome will likely be bad.

Don’t get me wrong, I have full faith that God is good.  I am confident that He loves us in a way that is so powerful that it’s incomprehensible to our finite minds, but I have grown more comfortable with the understanding that, as a follower of Christ I will constantly be undergoing the refining process, which is often painful.  Joys happen, yes, but they’re to keep us moving forward toward the finish line, not a gift of love from the King of Kings.

I. WAS. WRONG.

God hears our prayers.  Every single one.  And He knows what is better for us than we do, which is why sometimes He says “no”. Those “no’s” stink.  I don’t like being told “NO.”  And it seems like He says it a lot.

He doesn’t say “No” to be mean or because He doesn’t love us. Quite the opposite, really. He loves us so much that He won’t give us everything we want because what we desire is not His best for us.  If we could see our lives from His perspective and see His plan, His BEST for us, we would agree with Him.

But we can’t see our lives from His view so we often feel grossly disappointed, even HURT that “He doesn’t seem to love me” because we didn’t get what we want.

Going into this delivery of Phoebe I was expecting to be grossly disappointed.

As I labored so hard, my heart was troubled about what was to come.  I was afraid. I knew I’d get to hold her for a few minutes, but after that she’d be whisked away and I’d not get to hold her again… potentially for weeks.  I wanted her out, but wanted her inside just the same because I knew I was still holding her then, and we were connected as a mama and her baby should be.

Then I heard her scream a cry that said, “I’m here!  I’M HERE!!”  A scream that identified life; a beautiful, unexpected, highly anticipated life.

And I began to weep.

Never in the births of my previous 5 children did I cry when they were born.  Not because I didn’t love them like crazy, but because I was so happy.  I didn’t realize how great the fear of loss could be until Phoebe.  I didn’t realize how fragile life was until we were told time and time again that our girl simply didn’t stand a chance… so I wept because… GOD.

He knew.

He knew what He was doing before even putting Phoebe in my womb.

He knew our fears and our doubts and our hopes.

He knew our hopes for healing and my faith-lacking belief that it would happen just as the doctors had said.

Last July I was just starting this blog and wrote a post here here about what it’s like to follow God when He asks you to do something terrifying.

He never, ever asks us to begin a journey that He will not accompany us on and walk us through.

When Jesus asked Peter to climb out of the boat and join him on the water (Matthew 14), Peter did it willingly.  Then he saw the waves and the wind and the stormy seas around him and he began to panic and freak out, taking his eyes off the One who called Him to the task in the first place; the ONE who could bring him through it. And he began to sink.

“Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” He said, “why did you doubt? -Matthew 14:31

Just call me “Peter”.

Why did I doubt?

This is God We’re talking about here!  He has brought our family on a journey. He has promised that He will never leave us or turn His back on us. Our job is to keep our eyes fixed, unmoved by the wind and waves and storms around us, on HIM who is immoveable and unshakeable.

“Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible. With God ALL things are possible.” -Matthew 19:36

Let’s encourage one another with that, okay?  NOTHING is impossible with God.

And friends? Let’s keep praying for one another because “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” -James 5:16

Phoebe is evidence of that.  Thank you for your fervent, faithful prayers!  God heard and He said, “YES!”

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No tubes, no meds, ALL AWESOME!!!

So my kids aren’t perfect…. now what?

Many years ago when I found out I was pregnant with my firstborn I was so excited.  From the moment I saw those lines on the stick I began making plans for what my child would be like.  I had a hunch it’d be a boy so I began shopping for boy clothes.  I was determined that MY son would not be dressed in anything Winnie the Pooh or have characters of any kind on his clothing.  He would wear Baby Gap.  This was because MY son would be studly.  He’d be a walking magazine ad and model handsome.  This would reflect well on me and gain the approval of others.  Because somehow my worth, value and ability as a mom depended on how cute my kids were.  (This is incredibly embarrassing to confess, but I think many women might be able to relate). 

Fast forward 7 months later and my boy was born.  When they handed him to me I was a little shocked.  His nose was squished sideways and his ears were bumpy like broccoli and his face was a swollen mess.  While I was in love with my baby boy, I began to feel sad that he might not be as model perfect as I thought he’d be (I’m being completely honest, so bear with me).  Granted, I was a new mom and had no idea that babies generally don’t look cute fresh from the womb.  It takes awhile (and a bath) to let their form settle into place.  The nurses reassured me that he’d settle in within a few hours.  They were right and I breathed easier.  And he became a handsome young fellow.

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Once I got over that first “trial” of motherhood (which was ridiculous, right?) I began planning his career as a doctor or a pilot.  Actually he’d become both because he was awesome.  He would also be valedictorian of his high school and college classes.  Why not?  He was perfect!

But guess what?  Those books we read during pregnancy about childbirth only prepare us for one thing: the birth.  They leave us high and dry after that.  They don’t say anything about the fact that our babies will be born with personalities and wills of their own and that 100% of the time our kids won’t want to do what we want for them.  I found that out pretty fast.

My perfectly handsome baby boy quickly became a preschooler that was a MASTER at not just testing my patience (normal), but testing my belief that God was good.  Because if God was good, why would He allow me (who never really did anything “wrong” (this had been my opinion of myself)) to have a child who would have tantrums that lasted upwards of 3 hours and ended with neighbors staring over the fence to make sure things were okay? (I am grateful we have watchful neighbors.  I’d be concerned if they didn’t care, actually).  The kind of tantrums where I had to hold the bedroom door shut for the family’s own safety?  Or that my future valedictorian struggled with basic addition and subtraction through 3rd grade?  Who walked around the periphery of the playground at recess all alone every day for years?  (FYI, I my understanding of God’s goodness was highly flawed.  His goodness and our expectations don’t always match up). My dreams for him were being shattered every day and he wasn’t fitting into the “box” I had created for him.

We had 4 other kids that have their own wills and ideas for life too… ideas that don’t include becoming prima ballerinas or professional athletes or even anything in the medical field (gasp!).  Though one has her sights set pretty high and is determined to become a princess.

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My kids fight with each other like their lives depend on it.  They have turned the whine into a form of torture the military would have to spend billions to match. They DO NOT like wearing clothes I pick for them, no matter if they’re name brand or from Goodwill.  They do their own thing.  BECAUSE THEY ARE CHILDREN, not paper dolls.

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 But you know what?  Our job as moms isn’t to train up our kids to be superficial.  Our job as parents isn’t to make sure our children land the cover of the Hanna Anderssen catalog by the time they’re 5.  Our job is to train them up the way they should go so that when they are old they will not depart from it.  Our job is to help form the character of our children.  We are to LOVE THEM UNCONDITIONALLY.  To love them COMPLETELY for who they are.  To embrace every part of who they are and help mold their character, not their shell.

I missed the mark with my firstborn.  My expectations were SO ridiculous.  I feel terrible that I placed such pressure, even if it wasn’t always voiced, on him.  As a firstborn myself I should’ve been aware of what doing so would make a few things potentially happen: 1) obsession with perfection, thus setting him up for a lot of failure (me), 2) being a high-strung crazy person (me again), 3) absolute rebellion against our authority as parents and authority in general or 4) becoming a people-pleaser who says “yes” way too much so as never to upset anyone (again, me).

But here’s the thing: for every thing I’ve done wrong as a mom, my God can take and use it to make my kids who He created them to be.  I have screwed up.  Every parent has.  But God is good.  He is love.  He is the best parent whose plans for His children actually DO happen even if we do our darndest to make things go our way.  He’s patient.  He knows we’re human and gives as an abundance of grace because of it.

Do you even realize how much peace this brings me, a mom who has guilt-tripped herself into thinking she’s screwed up her kids for all eternity?  Who has thought it’d be better to save for counseling than for college for her kids? (Thank you Jennie Allen for that great idea!).

Ladies, we are not perfect.  Our kids are not perfect.  LIFE is not perfect.  But God is.  And He loves our babies more than we ever could.  Instead of fretting over how many activities our kids are involved in so they can be among the best candidates for full-ride scholarships to Harvard and subconsciously teaching them that their worth is wrapped up in their accomplishments, let’s instead focus on showing our children how valuable they are to us because they existHow valuable they are to God because He chose to create them and create a life plan for them.

Should we abandon expectation altogether?  No.  We need to expect our children to try their hardest, obey their parents, love their neighbor and such, but those are all wrapped up in training.  And a lot of prayer.  LOTS OF IT.

FYI, my firstborn?  The one whom we struggled with for so long?  The kid is amazing.  He is SO smart.  He is the most compassionate, tenderhearted, creative, funny, deep-thinking 12-year-old I’ve ever known.  Do we still fight?  Yup.  Is he going to be a neuroscientist?  I don’t know.  But whatever he chooses for his career, I’ll love him regardless and be proud of him. We have learned that God’s plan for our boy is better than what we could’ve imagined.  When I was planning his future I had neglected to think about his character; about the man, husband and father he would hopefully become.  I’m so glad God was taking care of thatI thank God profusely for not giving me my way and for doing things His way and in His time in and through my beloved son.

Mamas, I’m praying for you.  Your job is so hard.  When you want to pull your hair out or throw the toy box into the dumpster because you can’t stand picking up one more stinkin’ Zooble, reach up to God instead.  Whisper (or scream) a prayer to Him and ask for His help. Entrust your precious babies, whom you love more than life, to Him and breathe a little easier.  He’s got your back and He’s got the backs of your children and He loves you both more than you could ever imagine.